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Kevin Maher was born and brought up in Dublin, moving to London in 1994 to begin a career in journalism. He wrote for the Guardian, the Observer and Time Out and was film editor of the Face until 2002, before joining The Times where for the last eight years he has been a feature writer, critic and columnist.
We'd never seen anything like that around our place before. Not right in front of our eyes. You always heard about it, though. Through friends of friends. Or when The Mothers got together for coffee mornings. They'd sit around in a steamy kitchen circle like four mad witches, and dip ginger-snaps into Maxwell House until they went wobbly-warm, and take turns at saying, Jahear about so-and-so, Lord rest his soul, only thirty years old, poor creature?! They were brilliant at it. Scaring the shite out of each other, grinning inside. Jim Finnegan is thirteen years old and life in his world consists of dealing with the helter-skelter intensity of his rumbustious family, taking breakneck bike rides with his best friend, and coveting the local girls from afar - until one day when everything changes.
Jay adores his small daughter, Bonnie, and nothing matters more to him than being a good father. But Bonnie's traumatic birth puts an unbearable strain on his marriage with Shauna and the couple eventually separate. Despite this, London is the place to be: New Labour is in power and the city is buzzing with optimism. Jay is slowly putting his life back together, snagging a job on a TV documentary about the Millennium Dome and, crucially, spending time with his beloved three-year-old daughter, Bonnie. Indeed, things might have even begun to look up. Until, that is, the arrival of The Clappers. Six foot tall, all muscle and plenty of heart, she insists on making the world right for Jay. But, inevitably, she makes it wrong...
I slept right through to the next day. Missed the funeral and everything. Mam said it was just as well. Would've been too upsetting. I think of him now, though. Right at this moment. Here in this kitchen. And I wonder if it could've been different. Dublin, 1984: Ireland is a divided country, the Parish Priest remains a figure of immense authority and Jim Finnegan is thirteen years old, the youngest in a family of five sisters. Life in Jim's world consists of dealing with the helter-skelter intensity of his rumbustious family, taking breakneck bike rides with his best friend, and quietly coveting the local girls from afar. But after a drunken yet delicate rendition of 'The Fields of Athenry' at the Donohues' raucous annual party, Jim captures both the attention of the beautiful Saidhbh Donohue and the unwanted desires of the devious and dangerous Father Luke O'Culigeen. Bounced between his growing love for Saidhbh and his need to avoid the dreaded O'Culigeen, Jim's life starts to unravel. He and Saidhbh take a ferry for a clandestine trip to London that has dark and difficult repercussions, forcing Jim to look for the solution to all his problems in some very unusual places. The Fields is an unforgettable story of an extraordinary character: Jim's voice leaps off the page and straight into the reader's heart, as he grapples with his unfairly interrupted adolescence. Lyrical, funny, profoundly original and endlessly inventive, it is a brilliant debut from a remarkable new voice.